This fall I successfully taught two college courses using only an iPad 2 (and iPad Air) — no desktop or laptop. The experiment went easier than I expected but it was not without challenges.
I teach Art Appreciation and Art History at a local community college. For each session, content is presented on Keynote slides (typically consisting of 25 – 75 slides). Creating the presentations takes anywhere from three to fifty hours — most of that spent on the iPad. Naturally, the preparation involves a lot of time on the Internet for research, image selection, and administrative tasks.
Safari and Mercury were my favorite browsers. Each had its strengths. The latter’s “user agent” feature was essential for accessing “desktop only” websites. Pages and Keynote were the native apps I used most, and no complaints about either of them. The iPad’s ‘screenshot’ feature was a godsend for facilitating discussions on film and television. A lot of class time was spent analyzing the cinematography of ‘Breaking Bad'; that was made possible by using stills I captured while watching the series on Videos.
The app that proved most indispensable was Dropbox. In addition to the storage space and ability to transfer data, it was often the only way I could upload documents/images to select sites. Finding workarounds like this proved to be the biggest headache. But I was determined to avoid running to a copy shop to use a desktop. That stubbornness inspired a lot creativity. For example, when the school’s Blackboard site only allowed me upload .jpegs, I took screenshots of the documents I needed to post and submitted them that way.
I never found an ideal way to bookmark or file webpages I wanted to come back to. Readability is great in many ways, but the iPad app doesn’t allow you to create folders. In the end I utilized the bookmark feature on Safari for that purpose. For administrative tasks and class preparation, the most helpful apps were: Teacher’s Aide (attendance), www.cut (URL shortener), Jasmine (You Tube client), PDF Sign Pro (multiple uses), PDF Tools (merges multiple PDFs), Wikipaintings (image searches), and Art Studio (diagrams, mark up document/image).
It is imperative to use a bluetooth keyboard for long bouts of typing. I would like to find an affordable stand that displays the iPad at eye level. Recently, I thought I invented two new medical categories: iPad Wrist and iPad Neck. iPad ergonomic accessories are a necessity for Apple’s tablet to become a hardcore work computer.
Disclosure: These apps were independently purchased by the author.